It’s summer in Australia, and my kids love to spend as much time as they can at the beach. The only way to get them off the beach is when they are ‘starving’. It’s usually late in the day and with all the surfing and swimming the kids are ready for a huge feed. Just recently we had a day like this, and it was late in the evening, so we decided to go to our favourite takeaway, KFC.

On the drive from the beach to KFC, one of my sons asked, “What do you think the secret herbs and spices are, Dad?” The intrigue in the kids got me thinking: Would they even care what the herbs and spices were if it wasn’t a secret? Of course not! That’s the power of a secret.

As an adult, you’ve probably grown sceptical when reading a title promising to reveal a secret. However, many of us are still likely to click to find out more. If it addresses a perceived need or desire of yours, it’s worth exploring, right?

The power is in the ‘secret’, the thought that there’s hidden knowledge that might solve your problems quickly and easily. It’s a compelling marketing strategy when used in the right way and can create a sense of mystery for your business and brand.

KFC’s not the only big brand that’s used secret recipes as a marketing strategy.

Coca-Cola has famously made claims through its advertising that only two people know the actual ingredient lists. Claims like this can grow in mythology and, with the power of social media, evolve into all sorts of conspiracy theories. People love a good mystery and love to come up with theories. Colonel Sanders and KFC have had their fair share of theories, but the greatest of all is the myth of the secret herbs and spices. It is said that Colonel Sanders originally had the recipe for his chicken published on a sign above the door of his gas station diner so anyone could read it. Who knows if that’s true? And if it is, who really cares? Does it matter? The legend of the secret herbs and spices lives on.

Secrets can be used from a marketing standpoint and therefore, are sometimes mythical. Genuine secrets in your business are your IP (intellectual property) and, thus, are usually guarded in absolute secrecy, not used as a marketing strategy.

What’s your secret sauce?

It is sad but true, most small businesses fail. The likely cause is often a lack of genuine difference between your service and your competitors’. Small businesses often don’t experience the success they set out to achieve because there’s no compelling reason for customers to buy from them or talk about them to friends and family.

While these business people are probably passionate about what they are doing, they often lack the basics every business needs to understand. They don’t position themselves well for their target market.

Maybe you can’t go as far as saying you have a ‘secret recipe’, but you certainly do need a unique and compelling way to deliver your product or service offering. What can you do to set yourself apart?

More small businesses are being launched today than ever before, thanks to the Internet and the low barrier to entry that has made the process of starting a business easy.

People hear of the business growth and success being achieved online, and they want a piece of the action. A great number of them fail because they become a ‘me too’ business, delivering the same stuff, the same way, at the same price as their competitors.

First, understand your target market

When defining your target market, consider your best customers and what they share in common. These commonalities should help you write a description of your ideal customer. Your ideal customer should be your target market. It’s that simple, yet so many small businesses miss the mark.

If you’re going to formulate a ‘secret’ for your business, or at the very least a unique position, you must first understand it’s not all about you. It’s about your clients or customers! Is there a need or desire in your target market that your competitors are not addressing adequately? What frustrations do they have with your industry? Can you shape your marketing to address these issues?

The more accurate your understanding of your target market, the easier it is to understand their needs, desires and current frustrations. Address these issues, and you’re on the road to success. Here are three reasons why you should consider using secrets for marketing in your business:

1. Easier to become distinctive

Most businesses have direct competition from other businesses that are almost identical to yours. How will a prospective customer ever decide who to buy from? If your business doesn’t have anything to keep it distinct from the competition, customers can only shop on price alone. That’s a terrible position to be in unless your ‘secret’ enables you to deliver your product or services more efficiently so your costs are significantly less than your competitors.

In other instances, your ‘secret’ may enable you to charge a premium since your offering is superior in the eyes of your target market. Your target market may be prepared to pay more when your distinctive offering is a better fit for their perceived need.

2. Decrease the competition

A ‘secret’ implies what you are offering cannot be obtained elsewhere. It suggests that even if your potential customers can get a similar product or service elsewhere, it’s likely to be inferior since they don’t have the ‘secret’.

Not everyone will buy into your secret, and that’s okay. Focus on your tribe. Marketing to a huge and undefined group of people is only possible for big business that can afford to splash money around. When you market to a smaller group of people or a niche, you will find there is less competition.

3. Decrease your marketing costs

Because your ‘secret’ will likely be appealing to a select few that you’ve defined, you can laser-focus your marketing on reaching them. You won’t be wasting money trying to market to people who simply wouldn’t be great customers anyway.

Since you are not trying to reach the masses, you will find you can spend less on advertising and grow organically through word of mouth. Ideally, your ‘secret’ will be compelling enough to be shared amongst your target market. They’ll become advocates and raving fans who will refer more business your way.

Using secret words that sell

Okay, I admit it, these words aren’t really secret. But I know more than 70% of our readers skim over these articles just reading headings and skimming over the rest. Maybe that’s the secret!

The truth is we are bombarded every day with advertising words that are designed to grab our attention and have been proven to work. Naturally, we find some campaigns work better than others for a range of reasons.

So, as a business owner, just how do you go about selecting the words to use when formulating your ‘secret’? While there is no magic formula, there are some guidelines to help get you on the right track.

As I’ve already covered, you need to understand your target market for this process to work. You’ll need to be very aware of what they like, need, what makes them feel satisfied, and so on.

What’s the end goal? Naturally, in business, you want to increase your profit. Ultimately, you want people to buy. You should ideally aim higher than that. Developing a great relationship with customers and making people’s lives better is what it’s really all about. That’s because this generally leads to ongoing, sustainable success and happiness.

Use simple, uncomplicated language. People want to know what’s in it for them, not about your lofty achievements. They also don’t have time to listen to long, boring lectures about how much better your product is than the next business. So, make it simple and avoid being cryptic or too clever for your own good.

There are lots of words that can be used for sales copy. Some of these words may be suitable in articulating your secret, or your unique position. It will also depend on what you have to offer and what your target market is interested in. Below are just a few terms that may help you get the creative juices flowing:

  1. You – this has to be number one. It’s not about me, it’s all about you the potential customer. So sprinkle ‘you’ throughout your copy. ‘Your’ has the same effect.
  2. New – because everyone likes something new since it implies it’s superior to what was on offer previously.
  3. Save – lots of us are wired to love the feeling of saving. We might buy $1000 worth of items, but we focus on the $100 discount we saved because that makes us feel good about the expense.
  4. Secret – this one should go without saying in this article.
  5. Special offer – communicates that this deal is something unique that won’t last.
  6. Free – as in ‘free 14-day trial’, for instance – allowing people to test your product before buying or committing and removes perceived risks.
  7. Love – people often buy emotionally. ‘You will love this offer’ is an example. However, don’t overdo the love or get too cheesy!
  8. Exciting – another emotive word.
  9. Opportunity – shows you are providing an opportunity for people to improve their lives.
  10. Guaranteed – means you are willing to put your money where your mouth is and come good on your promises or give customers their money back.
  11. Results – indicates your offer will bring results for those who invest in it.
  12. Health – since everyone wants to be healthy.
  13. Unique – you are offering something different to everyone else.

Other words – easy, can, get, gain, trust, click, proven, discover, gift, delivered, premium and immediate – can also be effective, depending on your goals.

Whatever words you decide to use, just remember that it’s essential to deliver on your promises. So, make sure you are ready to back up your words. That’s the real secret to success!